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X-Factor! Check out some UFC San Antonio main card predictions

UFC Fight Night: Njokuani v Todorovic Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

This weekend (Sat., March 25, 2023), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) travels to AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas, for UFC San Antonio. For the second time this month, the main event is a pivotal Bantamweight match up, as top-tier strikers Marlon Vera and Cory Sandhagen will go to war in the main event. Leading up to that fight, there’s a potential title eliminator in the co-main event, too, as Holly Holm returns to action opposite Yana Kunitskaya-Santos. The rest of the main card bouts are broken down below, but let me also argue that the second best fight of the evening, Manel Kape vs. Alex Perez, will be headlining the “Prelims” instead of its deserved co-main event slot (Kape via knockout!). Otherwise, let’s dig in and take a closer look at the match ups that lead up the to main event:

LIVE! Stream UFC Vegas 74 On ESPN+

HIGH STAKES FLYWEIGHT MATCHUP! Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns home to UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Sat., June 3, 2023, with No. 3-seeded contender, Kai Kara-France, face rising No. 7-ranked Amir Albazi. In UFC Vegas 74’s ESPN+-streamed co-main event, an exciting Featherweight bout sees No. 15-ranked contender, Alex Caceres, lock horns with all-action Daniel Pineda.

Don’t miss a single second of face-punching action!

Featherweight: Austin Lingo vs. Nate Landwehr

Best Win for Lingo? Luis Saldana For Landwehr? Darren Elkins
Current Streak: Both men have won two straight
X-Factor: Lingo was supposed to fight two weeks ago and is a replacement opponent
How these two match up: This absolutely reads like a surefire brawl.

Landwehr’s last bout opposite David Onama was simultaneously a great display of improvement and one of the dumbest fights I’ve ever seen. “The Train” has a really slick and aggressive kickboxing game, but he’s also prone to making bad decisions that result in completely wild brawls. That’s a recipe for developing into a fan favorite, but it doesn’t exactly guarantee success.

Lingo doesn’t have a huge amount of knockout wins to his record, but the man clearly hits hard. He’s a talented puncher with good in-and-out movement, and his ability to throw down for 15-full minutes has proven a major factor in his UFC success thus far.

On paper, Landwehr’s recent technical improvements should put him ahead. He’s chaining together combinations well, managing distance efficiently, and making opponents pay for their attempts at offense. When he’s flowing, he looks really smooth and dangerous, and the former M-1 champion has a significant edge in high-level competition experience.

Still, it should be noted that no Landwehr fight is guaranteed. He still remains susceptible to shots up the middle, and Lingo has the boxing skill and athleticism to make him pay. That could end the fight, but I’ll trust that Landwehr is tough enough to get stunned once or twice and fire right back, and his overall better striking should help him take over the latter half of the fight.

Prediction: Landwehr via decision

Women’s Flyweight: Andrea Lee vs. Maycee Barber

Best Win for Lee? Cynthia Calvillo For Barber? Jessica Eye
Current Streak: Lee lost her last bout, whereas Barber has won three straight
X-Factor: Lee’s wrestling defense is the big question mark here
How these two match up: This should be a pretty entertaining fight between ranked Flyweights.

Lee is one of the more technical kickboxers in her division. She has a fair bit of power compared to her peers too, and “KGB” has pulled off some slick submissions to boot. The problem comes when opponents consistently grind with takedowns, at which point Lee often makes their lives easier by getting her kicks caught or otherwise giving away easy openings for control.

Barber is still developing her overall game and strategy, but all the pieces are starting to line up. She’s a real physical talent, strong in the clinch and heavy-handed, and that’s recently starting to translate into consistent wins.

For Barber to win this fight, she either has to hurt or take down Lee. At distance, Lee is the superior technical striker. In a straight kickboxing battle, Lee would likely be able to land enough jabs and kicks to stay ahead on the scorecards. In prior fights, Barber has willingly fought kickboxing matches when more close distance fights would favor her, and that’s a mistake that shouldn’t be made here.

Fortunately, Lee’s activity rate and her kicking preference should give Barber opportunities to dump her to the canvas. Once that happens, Barber is pretty nasty with her ground strikes, and she doesn’t take her foot off the gas. She should only need one such opportunity to change the fight, and Lee isn’t really the type to totally avoid making some kind of mistake.

Barber hits hard enough to make her pay.

Prediction: Barber via decision

Middleweight: Chidi Njokuani vs. Albert Duraev

Best Win for Njokuani? Marc-Andre Barriault For Duraev? Roman Kopylov
Current Streak: Both men lost their last fight
X-Factor: Both men enter following stoppage losses
How these two match up: This should be a real scrap.

Njokuani spent a long time bouncing around promotions prior to his UFC debut, but it paid off. He debuted with a stunning pair of quick knockouts, and though he came up short last time out, he did so in one of the year’s best brawls. He’s an action fighter of high caliber with 14 knockout wins to his credit — there’s no secret what “Chidi Bang Bang” is looking to do when the cage door locks.

Russia’s Duraev is an aggressive and physical finisher. He’ll swing big hooks and then tackle forward with a takedown, implementing the kind of high pace that can really demoralize opponents.

How long this fight goes really dictates who wins it. Njokuani starts very strong and has a ton of fight-finishing tools in his arsenal. He likes to get in-and-out of the cage quickly, before opponents can adjust to his combination of power and 80 inch reach. Conversely, Duraev is a fighter more accustomed to breaking opponents down. He hits hard, sure, but often it’s the combination of pressure, fatigue, and strikes landed that allow him to end fights before the buzzer.

Any fight that is decided largely by takedown defense is difficult to predict. Duraev really struggled with a smaller man in Joaquin Buckley last time out, and Njokuani appears to have a similar level of defensive wrestling. Given Njokuani’s finishing ability, he likely doesn’t have to defend that many shots in order for a major moment to arise, and the former pro kickboxer isn’t in the business of letting hurt opponents off the hook.

Prediction: Njokuani via knockout

‘X-Factor’ Picks for 2023: 5-4-1

Remember that will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC San Antonio fight card right here, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance (also on ESPN+) at 7 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC San Antonio: “Vera vs. Sandhagen” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

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